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The Clearing (2004)

Rating: 3/10

Running Time: 95 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 12


I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of breach of the Trades Descriptions Act going on here. If a movie tags itself as a thriller, isn’t it actually supposed to be thrilling at one point or another? ‘The Clearing’, sadly, is about as “thrilling” as a tea-soaked Digestive.

In his first appearance since 2001’s ‘Spy Game’, Robert Redford – possibly the best actor of his generation yet to branch out into the cooking sauce business – stars as high-flying corporate executive Wayne Hayes. One evening, when on his way home to wife Eileen (Helen Mirren), Wayne is kidnapped – or, at least, grown-man-napped – by gun-toting nerd Arnold Mack (Willem Dafoe). Before long, Arnold and Wayne are hiking endlessly through the woods on a bit of a male-bonding session, while Eileen desperately attempts to assist the FBI in their attempts to get her hubby back.

Dutch helmsman Pieter Jan Brugge has produced a number of success stories in his time (‘Heat’, ‘Bulworth’, ‘The Pelican Brief’ and ‘The Insider’ have all carried his name) but this is the first time he’s attempted plonking his botty in a director’s chair, and if the end result is anything to go by then he’s a prime example of a man who should be told not to give up his day job.

Whichever way you look at it, this entire film is completely pedestrian. Sure, the acting’s fine – but I think we’re all entitled to expect a little better than “fine” from such big screen luminaries as Redford, Dafoe and Mirren. Sadly though, everyone involved just seems to be going through the motions, and the uninspired and largely uninteresting material they’re asked to work with only serves to put the final nail in the coffin.

With its confusing timeframe, soap-opera soundtrack, and an overall plot so formulaic it would make Einstein blush, everything about ‘The Clearing’ just screams “please, don’t give me a big-screen release! I want to go straight to DVD!” And – with only extremely limited cinema time in the US and a direct trip to the Blockbuster shelves in the UK – it pretty much gets its wish.

It's Got: That old Hollywood staple of two men in suits scrapping over a gun in a muddy forest.

It Needs: To be cleared right off the screen.

DVD Extras Audio commentary, deleted scenes with optional commentary, a scrollable on-screen copy of the screenplay (riveting!), and a slightly out-of-place behind-the-scenes look at the Robert De Niro movie ‘Hide and Seek’ (is it being plugged simply because it stars someone else called Robert, or is there some other vague reason for its appearance on this disc?). Edition Reviewed: The Clearing also available at DVD Extras Rating: 4/10


Redford, Mirren and Dafoe want money for old rope by appearing in this lame, predictable nonsense. Don’t give it to them. We all deserve better.